He’d visited many churches over the ages, but had no memory of such a passionate collection of rustic voices. They shouted to glory! The singers held nothing back, the exuberance of the spirited women and men, the divine harmonies between them strummed his inner lyre with joy! He loved a full church and this one had every pew filled.
His limbs tingled with energy, his grin felt permanent. Scanning the rapt faces in the chorus, one face switched the light streaming into his soul off. This sable-haired, acne-faced boy had a dark and forbidding aura. Terp had decided to come to a country church for the music; some other influence may have helped him choose this church. The offering plate went around and the preacher released the youth to their Sunday School classes. That one boy did not go with the other teens. Noting which room the kid went he sidetracked to the Office and left a note for the Preacher.
He opened the door slowly to avoid scaring the young man.
He darted a hand to slide an open bible behind his back and tried to appear casual, leaning back on the kitchenette counter to hide it. “Who are you and why’d you follow me here?”
“You need help.”
“I need you to get outta here and leave me the hell alone.” The boy’s agitated, jerky movements made it clear that the contents of the hollowed out bible were vitally important to him. To have profaned the Word bothered Terp, but he made himself let it go so he could address the person who did it.
Terp looked back over his many other interactions with troubled persons and found nothing solid to guide him. Sailors with opium in snuffboxes. Lawyers with cocaine in gutted fountain pens. Just as he began a pitch designed to make the kid understand his problem was an age-old one, someone pounded on the door to the outside. The boy turned and clutched his bible secretively and told the man at the door they had to leave quick. A loud car sped away.
As he’d supposed when he hid under the table against the wall and napped, someone crept into the room from that unlocked door a couple hours later. Two someones. The kid and the man he’d driven away with. The man carried a long metal bar as if it were a sword. He followed them to the church office. He saw the man pry the door open with the metal rod. As they gawked into the empty strongbox, Terp stepped inside.
“Gentlemen, it’s over. We can pray for forgiveness and repent or we can call the police. You decide.”
The man swung the metal bar wildly. Terp had no difficulty grabbing it and increasing the momentum along the vector such that the man fell forward and hit the floor face first, right in the doorway. Terp put a boot on the man’s neck to hold him. He waved to get the kid’s attention. “Son, you can get help. The Grace of God is all-powerful and can lift you up from this deep hole. There are good people who can help keep you on the straight and narrow path. Jesus without any doubt loves you no matter what you’ve done.”
As he spoke, the boy opened his bible and loaded a syringe full, past the ragged tape that marked a spot about half way. All the while he held Terp’s eye. The kid knew a full syringe would be his last one. The kid knew Terp would not risk the violent man’s wrath by stepping off the guy’s neck to stop him. Those hopeless eyes understood self-preservation, looking out for number one.
Terp clearly stated, “I know who and what is most important here.” In two strides Terp held the boy’s arm inches from completing the mortal injection. The boy still kept Terp’s eye as he said, “I don’t know who you are and I guess it don’t matter. I repent and beg Jesus for forgiveness.” The kid dropped the syringe and shoved Terp backwards, to one side. He hit the Preacher’s desk and fell to his hands and knees.
The heavy metal bar meant for Terp cracked the kid’s collarbone and more, making the young man collapse. Without thought or volition, Terp snatched up the syringe and jabbed it into the demon-infested man’s thigh.
Terp held the boy whose name he never knew and sang his soul into the loving arms of his guardian angel Denis. He watched the murderer on the floor writhe in fatal ecstasy with two thoughts prominent. One, ‘vengeance is mine says the Lord’. He had not willed his hand to slay this person, but his hand had done it. This would haunt him, but now was not the time to linger. The other thought urged him to get back, that choir practice would begin soon and he needed to clean up. He heard an approaching siren. A silent alarm at the office door?
Hours later he sat at the long table careful to pull his jacket close, having no time to clean up after all. “Hello, Yownay. I didn’t expect to see you away from your friends.”
“Oh look, the above-the-law choir boy. I didn’t expect to see you at all.” She rose and walked away serenely.
Altus hurried in and took her spot. “Is that blood on your shirt? Where did you go?”
“Hello Altus. Have you a spare robe? I’ve forgotten mine.” He tugged at his jacket.
Altus tapped his own collar. “Benna said she’d bring one up, said she saw you race by.”
The older man’s bright manner did lighten his mood some. “I went to check on a few things. I hope Benna hurries, we’re due over yonder.”
“Yonder this.” When he turned, Benna tossed the white robe at his face. “Is that blood yours?”
“No.” He turned his shirt collar to the inside and slipped the robe on.
“I covered for you but Yownay came asking specifically for you. She said fooling around those Humans and getting arrested was not a game. Were you arrested?”
Altus stood and shook his head. “You should be concerned about what Yownay says and who she says it to. You don’t want the Archangels on your case.”
Terp stopped and looked at his companions with incredulity. “Do either of you seriously think I am attempting to deceive the Archangels?”
Benna smirked. What’s the difference between discreet and furtive? You go down there with no permission and no authority.”
“I need to go. Can we get on before we hold up the entire practice?”
They followed him toward the choir chamber. Just before entering the vast hall, Benna tugged his shoulder and rubbed something off his face. “You do look worried. It’s the high notes in the big solo, isn’t it?”
“Oh yes, that’s it.” His smile might be interpreted otherwise, but it was really for the boy he’d sung the highest notes of all for. True, if he hadn’t interfered both of them would be alive, perhaps. Would surviving in ruin and danger under the horror of an ever-engorging addiction be called living? The kid nearly suicided. How many more children would that devil have destroyed? ‘Vengeance is mine says the Lord.’ Might the criminal have experienced an epiphany and been a force for good? Could his soul have been saved? Terp had eliminated the man’s choices. But not by will.
The Choir Master tapped for attention and Terp joined in on the opening stanza.